Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

                Dorothy Must Die has been on my radar for a while. It’s the story of Amy Gunn, a teenage girl who lives in a trailer park in Kansas. She doesn’t have many friends, is known as Salvation Amy because of the clothes she wears, and has an alcoholic mother. One day her trailer is swept up in a tornado and she is whisked away to Oz. But this isn’t the Oz that she remembers from the stories. This world is different. It’s different because Dorothy returned from Kansas and is now harboring all of its magic for her own uses. Now Amy, as the other “outlander” is believed by some to be the only way to get rid of Dorothy. The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked is now training her to kill Dorothy.
                I imagined that this story was going to be extremely dark, a little grisly, with a kick ass heroine that would be able to execute the plan with no problem. That isn’t exactly what happened. This story was extremely dark, a little gruesome and though not terrifying the world itself was really well developed and imagined. I could see this world taking shape. I could see how one person, in this case Dorothy’s, greed could remove magic from such a special and iconic place. I could even see how a group of people who would normally hate each other could band together in order to fight against a common enemy. Amy was the problem. I have had this happen before when I just didn’t connect with the protagonist. I kept with the series because I really enjoyed the story and ended up being burned in the end. (I’m looking at you Tris from the Divergent Series.) I don’t know if I am willing to take that chance again. Amy was just a boring character to me. I didn’t believe in her at all. I questioned every decision she made throughout the book. If she had been amazing instead of simply a mediocre, teenager filled with angst I would have probably loved this story.

                Alas I didn’t love Dorothy Must Die. I didn’t hate it though either. This was an extremely strong story with a premise I can stand behind. Some people may even love it and love Amy but seeing how her and I are butting heads I am giving this 3.5 out of 5 stars. I really liked the idea of Dorothy coming back and raising hell in Oz. I read this book in no time and for the most part enjoyed it. I just can’t get over Amy. There were a few other things that made me think twice and I do still have a few questions about the story so I might eventually get to the sequel. But I won’t make any promises. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino

To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino

                I had never read a historical nonfiction account of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am elated that the first time I am able to dive into the history of what happened, it is with To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima. Pellegrino did an amazing job telling the stories of these survivors and everyone involved in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This book was well researched and beautifully executed. Pellegrino has a very simple, matter of fact narrative style that allowed for the history to simply unfold. He went over the facts of what happened explaining the technicalities of the uranium and plutonium bombs with ease. He explained what happened to those at Ground Zero of both sites sparing no details so that readers could capture and understand just how horrifying and disastrous the events were. Pellegrino was unbiased when depicting everyone’s story from those in Japan who weren’t acknowledging just how serious the attacks were, to the pilots flying the planes that would deliver the atomic bombs, to those who survived the attacks and were treated as outsiders. Pellegrino throughout this book respected the seriousness of the tragedy and as part of that respect, spared no detail.

To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima may be one of the best historical, nonfiction books I have ever read. I’m walking away from this book an educated individual on the subject with more empathy than I ever thought imaginable for those whose lives were affected. Pellegrino did an amazing job telling this story without any bias, simply allowing the voices of everyone to be heard, their stories and experiences told and the information communicated. This book easily receives a 5 out of 5 stars from me and a high level of recommendation.

Thank you Netgalley for the advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

                I remember when I was younger hearing about a Debbie Allen production of The Nutcracker. I was very young and had never been to a ballet before but I was intrigued. Debbie Allen was a famous African American dancer and choreographer and her production, The Chocolate Nutcracker, would have an African American cast. I never got to see that ballet and I hadn’t thought about it since. So imagine my surprise when reading Misty Copeland’s memoir Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina realizing that she was the lead dancer in that very same ballet I had heard of as a little girl. I was shocked and yet amazed that a young girl that was raised in San Pedro, California, not far from where I was raised in Los Angeles, was now an author and an acclaimed soloist for the American Ballet Theatre in New York.
                Misty Copeland came from humble beginnings and an unstable childhood. Her mother was forever the wanderer and would move herself and her six children from one man to the next over Misty’s childhood. It was by chance that Misty stumbled into ballet at the age of thirteen, only to soon be hailed as a prodigy for her natural talent. The road wasn’t easy and it was filled with public ridicule, a stint in court and doubts because of her race and yet she endured. She still dances today. She is now garnering more recognition than ever because her movement up the ABT ranks and her Under Armor endorsements.

                Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina is a memoir that brings light to what life as an African American dancer really is. Copeland has been under a spotlight since she began dancing and her race unfortunately has always played role in how people have viewed her. She has either been applauded for impeccable style and flawless technique or ridiculed for her shape and skin tone. Copeland endures and continues to fight. This memoir exposes what that fight has been like her entire life. It explains why she fights so hard to make history and to be the brown ballerina that many try not to recognize. This memoir was well written and poignant. She was honest about her relationships, her family, her upbringing and her persistence. The injuries that threaten to break her and the criticism that tried to take her hard work away. I was amazed while reading about her story. I had never known what the fight was like for her and I was glad I had taken the time to read her amazing story. I can definitely recommend this memoir and give it 4 out of 5 stars. It is a memoir of courage and progress and the forcing of change. 

When the Diamonds Were Gone: A Jewish Refugee Comes of Age in America in the 1940's by Julian Padowicz

When the Diamonds Were Gone: A Jewish Refugee Comes of Age in America in the 1940’s by Julian Padowicz

                When the Diamonds Were Gone: A Jewish Refugee Comes of Age in America in the 1940’s is the fourth memoir written by Julian Padowicz. This memoir focuses on Julian arriving in the United States and being placed in an educational system when he barely understood the English language. The memoir begins with his arrival to New York. He is nine years old and would soon be enrolled in 4th Grade at a private school. He has fled Warsaw with his mother Barbara. They have escaped war torn Europe and landed in Brazil and have now reached their final destination. The book continues to follow Julian throughout his journey until he graduates college and begins his career.
                I found this memoir enjoyable. Padowicz tells his story with such vivid detail and honesty that is hard not to be invested in his plight. He has a non-existent relationship with a manipulative and self-centered mother. He has to adapt to surroundings that he doesn’t necessarily understand all while receiving an education. The struggle was obvious and understandable. To make things even more complicated, Padowicz was a Jewish boy who was told by his mother to lie and say he was Catholic because of the anti-Semitic attitude that existed.

                This is a memoir that I can recommend because not only was it fascinating, it was well written and easy to read. Julian’s life in the 1940’s in the United States is one full of highs and lows but more than that it was about endurance and overcoming the struggles that exists when you have to adapt to a new land. I give this 4 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you Netgalley for my advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.